Bernie Sanders’ brother just nailed everything that’s wrong with centrism

Bernie Sanders' brother Larry Sanders on BBC This Week
Support us and go ad-free

On 6 November, Americans will go to the polls in the country’s mid-term elections. They’ll be voting for members of the US House of Representatives and the Senate.

With this in mind, the BBC invited Larry Sanders – Bernie Sanders’ brother and Green Party of England and Wales politician – to discuss the elections on late night political show This Week. And he had a surprise in store for its viewers, because he tore apart centrist politics in the US.

Why are the democrats struggling?

In a powerful video on the show, Sanders explained the context behind the US elections:

The spotlight is on the mid-term elections in the United States next week. They’re probably the most important mid-term elections in the history of the country. If the Republicans do well, the malign power of President Trump will be increased in the United States and throughout the world.

He then posed a crucial question for the US Democratic Party in the run-up to the elections:

Why are the Democrats struggling, when the Republicans are led by a liar and a racist – one of the most unpopular presidents in the history of the country? Why are so many working-class white people voting for a party [the Republicans] which is so fully committed to the welfare of the very rich?

The problem with ‘centrism’

Sanders’ answer to that question was clear: the Democrats are struggling due to their attachment to ‘centrism’. He summed that up by saying:

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

Part of the explanation is long domination of the Democratic Party by its right wing – the famous ‘New Democrats’ of Bill Clinton.

[Bernie Sanders’] policies are proven to be very popular in the polls. Policies like free healthcare, free higher education, like doubling the minimum wage. Yet despite the popularity of these policies, many Democrats fudge or oppose them.

He went on to show how this isn’t unique to the US. In fact, ‘centrist’ political projects are collapsing across the world:

The Democrats’ loss of working-class voters to right-wing parties is not unique to the United States. Across the whole of the West, social-democratic parties have collapsed. They have collapsed for the same reason. They have spent the last 40 years satisfying the needs of the rich at the expense of the majority.

“What they do for the people of the country is crap”

Responding to Michael Portillo, who claimed the Democrats would be better off occupying the political centre ground, Sanders said:

We have had, the statistics are 100% clear, 40 years of constant shift of wealth and income from the majority of the population to the very rich. That’s the result of this kind of stuff. People do win elections. They get good jobs. But what they do for the people of the country is crap.

He then showed just how skewed perceptions of politics have become:

It is not something radical to say that people should have a free health service that is good quality. It’s not radical to say everybody is entitled to a decent place to live. It’s not radical to say that you should have a decent wage if you’re working hard.

Why is it that we end up with a society [in] which those things seem to be so radical?

And he had strong words for centrist politicians too:

I think it’s the failure of the so-called left, which has gotten into the system, and plays all sorts of games of explanations as to why the things that people need can’t be done.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bzwoom3DS3w&t=6m25s

The slow death of social-democratic ‘centrism’

Throughout the programme, Sanders touches on a really important point. ‘Centrism’ in social-democratic parties across the world is in retreat.

In Germany, the SPD is now in fourth place according to the latest opinion poll, well behind the more left-wing Green Party. In the 2017 presidential election, France’s Socialist Party was all but wiped out as Jean-Luc Melenchon picked up votes from its left. Earlier, in Greece, the social-democratic party PASOK was eclipsed by the more radical SYRIZA.

The fate of these social-democratic parties is in stark contrast to that of the UK Labour Party, whose members have rejected centrism. It is now the largest political party in western Europe, and starved the Conservatives of a majority in the last general election.

This international context is what makes Sanders’ intervention on the US political landscape so important. Because if the Democrats continue to adopt a ‘centrist’ approach to politics, they could face a similar fate to their stumbling European counterparts.

Get Involved!

– Join The Canary so we can keep holding the powerful to account.

Featured image via Screengrab.

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed